As I sat in my room unpacking after a week-long trip to Panama, I couldn’t help but pity myself and the snowy view from my window. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I found a bag of dulce de leche candies I forgot I had packed in my bag.
With only four small candies left, I left two for my family and savored each and every last bite of my own. It was almost as if the last crumb was meant to serve as a wake-up call that spring was only just beginning and I had to snap back into school mode before thinking about summer fun.
I finally snapped back to reality and checked my email for the first time in a week, only to find out that I had received my acceptance letter to study abroad in Argentina. Ironically, as I shared the news with my parents, I watched my mom take the last bite of dulce de leche as she warned me to get ready for a semester of the alfajores.
I had no idea whether alfajores were some type of food, some sort of place, a specific style or specialty of the country. After asking what they were, it turns out alfajores are not only the cousin to my favorite candy, but also one of Argentina’s national desserts. It was clearly meant to be.
While nothing serves justice like the first bite, alfajores are best described as dulce de leche-filled cookies—occasionally coated in dark or white chocolate. Just the thought of two of my favorite desserts had my mouth watering, which had me thinking—there was no way I could wait until next semester to satisfy my craving. Plus, when I heard some people take it one step further by topping these cookies off with coconut shavings and/or sprinkles, I couldn’t believe a dessert combining all of my favorite flavors even existed without my knowledge.
The secret to mastering alfajores is baking a perfect butter cookie to cover thick and complementary dulce de leche spread. While pleasing to the taste buds all by themselves, these treats also go great and are famously accompanied with black coffee.
This recipe begins with crafting the dulce de leche, which can be prepared up to a week before (as long as it is stored securely in the refrigerator). Start by boiling a pot of water and adding in condensed milk cans on their sides. After carefully adding in the cans, allow the to pot simmer for three hours and 15 minutes all while refilling it with hot water (in order to keep the cans below water).
Note: Be sure to maintain the boil to avoid a can combustion. Finally, carefully transport the cans from the pot to a rack (with tongs) to cool before opening.
Separately, set out a small bowl to combine brandy, lemon zest and one teaspoon of vanilla. In addition to this combination, use a larger bowl to whisk flour, cornstarch, baking power, baking soda and salt together all while using an electric mixer to separately beat sugar and butter together for approximately three minutes. While whipping this into a light mixture, add in egg yolks and add the brandy mixture until all the components are clearly combined. Finally add the flour mixture in on low speed to produce your dough.
After creating a batch of cookie dough, divide it in half and roll each piece into a log with a 1 1/2 inch width. Wrap the two logs in plastic and chill them for about two hours or until firm.
Meanwhile, heat your oven to 350 degrees and prepare baking sheets with parchment paper. After unwrapping your dough from the plastic, slice the logs into 1/8 inch thick rounds and place them onto your pan to bake until the edges are golden—this usually takes around seven minutes. Following this step, remove the pans from the oven and onto a rack.
As the cookies cool down, combine your dulce de leche mix and top it off with vanilla and a pinch of salt. Spoon the thick texture together and transport it into a plastic bag which you can convert into a pastry bag by cutting the corner off.
Lastly, flip half of the cookie batch upside down to smother with dulce de leche and top off with the other cookies to complete this irresistible sandwich.
– 1 tablespoon of grated lemon zest
– 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
– 1 cup of all-purpose flour
– 1 cup + 1 tablespoon of cornstarch
– 1 teaspoon of baking powder
– 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
– 1/2 teaspoon of salt
– 1/2 cup of granulated sugar
– 10 tablespoons of butter
– 2 large egg yolks
– 1 cup of dried coconut or sprinkles (optional)